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Wise men speaking - and it's not even Christmas yet

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Last Friday saw this year's Economist Leadership Forum which ended with a panel discussion of disruptive technologies to watch out for in the year ahead. The panel included Microsoft's European chief executive, Dell's European president and the chief technology officer for mobile network Orange.

The great and the good were gathered in a central London hotel to hear the panel's thoughts on "A force for disruption - what technologies are set to change the way we do business?"

On the panel were Simon Powell, chief executive of retail travel specialist Comtec, Paul Bell, European president at Dell, Christian Morales, VP and general manager at Intel, Jean-Philippe Courtois, European CEO for Microsoft and Vivek Badrinath, chief technology officer at Orange. It was chaired by Economist technology editor Tom Standage.

Badrinath believes consumer behaviour is starting to change as people get used to having broadband and are getting used to wireless connections too. He predicted some demand for video on mobile phones - but short news, music or sports clips rather than longer TV or film content.

Paul Bell from Dell said although people value wireless access it is hard to measure improved efficiency or savings from it. He said that although 95 per cent of Dell laptops are wireless ready only 20 per cent of them actually get used.

He believes the biggest change in the coming year will not be consumer items but the big iron inhabiting the back of corporate data centres. Pressure on costs will push more and more CIOs into replacing machines running proprietary Unix - either with Linux or with Windows, he forecasts.

Now for the panel's predictions on hot technologies for 2005:

Vivek Badrinath, CTO at Orange, said: "Broadband everywhere - the promise is coming to be real - we need to see what the customers do with it now."

Jean-Philippe Courtois, CEO for Microsoft Europe, said: "Rich and real-time collaboration will integrate into business life with VoIP and other networks talking to each other."

Christian Morales from Intel predicted more digitalisation of the home and workplace and the continued march of wireless.

Bell predicted that network management software in large data centres would have the biggest impact because it will allow CIOs to manage system migrations which will save them money.

Simon Powell of Comtec said: "The emergence of intelligent search engines is going to be the biggest change for the travel industry." ®

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